With his surname already linked with the overall Pikes Peak International Hill Climb record thanks to son Rhys, Rod Millen is focusing his attention on piloting an electric vehicle up the mountain. During his debut in the electric division, he'll look to break the EV record in an updated version of the vehicle that set it: the EV P002 from Toyota Motorsport GmbH (TMG).
Last year, under the control of Fumio Nutahara, the EV P002 set a Pikes Peak electric division record with a run of 10 minutes 15.380 seconds. With the aim of bettering that at this year's event, Toyota Motorsport has already tuned the P002's powertrain to increase torque and motor speed. The EV racer is now in the process of being shipped to North Carolina, where the Toyota Racing Development U.S.A. team will improve the aerodynamics of the chassis.
Toyota hopes that 61-year-old Millen can be the final piece to its winning puzzle. Millen set a number of Pikes Peak records in the past, including a 1994 10-minute 4-second overall record that stood for 13 years. The man that broke it, 63-year-old Nobuhiro "Monster" Tajima, will compete against Millen in the electric division. In 2007, Tajima bested Millen's 1994 run with a 10-minute 1-second run, though the course was smoother than it was back in '94. Tajima will look to come back from an engine fire in last year's event and compete for an electric title in his Tajima Motors E-Runner.
The TMG EV P002's electric motor pumps out 536 hp (400 kW) and 885 lb ft (1,200 Nm) of torque, enabling speeds of up to 143 mph (230 km/h). It is powered by a 42 kWh lithium-ceramic battery. In order to keep that battery race-day ready in a mountain environment where power outlets are lacking, Toyota will use a battery-equipped TMG DC Quick Charger, which "becomes an independent source of power for rapid recharging in any location." When charged overnight, the DC Quick Charger, which is mounted in a Toyota Hiace van for easy transport, stores the same 42 kWh as the P002's battery and delivers rapid battery recharging without any added infrastructure.
"The TMG EV P002 has a perfect history of three records from three attempts, none of which have been beaten, so we have high standards to maintain," said Claudia Brasse, TMG Executive Coordinator Strategic EV Development. "The improvements we have made to the powertrain are expected to deliver even higher performance levels, which should again confirm the TMG EV P002 as the standard bearer for electric race cars."
"But as well as the electric powertrain itself, we are successfully innovating in the area of charging infrastructure. It is easy to take this for granted when you are working in a well-supplied laboratory or workshop. But motorsport doesn’t always take place in such an environment; you have to deal with varying levels of infrastructure and uncertainty regarding the power grid. The potential for off-board battery-to-battery charging technology is great, particularly in the world of motorsport where infrastructure limitations will increasingly become a source of frustration for electric motorsport."
Last year's Pikes Peak event was full of drama. It was delayed from its planned June date by a massive wildfire. When it did get underway later in the summer, the event became the fastest in Pikes Peak history thanks to the inauguration of a fully paved race course. A number of records, including an overall record, motorcycle record and electric record, were set at the event. It seems unlikely that this year's event, scheduled to run on Sunday, June 30, will have quite as much drama, but when it comes to racing, you never know.